When I was growing up our neighbours had elder trees that would overhang our garden. I remember the balmy early summer mornings when my dad would pick the frothy blossoms. He would gather them all up to make cordial, and wine that he would ferment in the attic.
I used to love the alchemy of it all. The giant demijohns filled with liquid, the syphons, the smells, the airlocks gently bubbling away. And the fun of bottling and labelling it all at the end.
I’m not really one for wine, but cordial on the other hand…
Elderflower cordial is a British summer classic. Is there anything better than a sunny summer afternoon in the garden, with good food, great company, and vat of homemade elderflower cordial, brimming with ice and lemon?
The elderflower season is fairly short, lasting from May to June or early July. We very nearly missed them this year, but I managed to drag my other half out with me for a little walk around the hedgerow outside our house and we harvested a bucket full before they went over. He came in very handy for pulling down the higher branches!
how to make elderflower cordial
Harvest your elderflowers in the morning on a warm, dry day. Pick the creamy, white sprays and leave the brown ones on the tree for the best cordial.
If you’re struggling to find citric acid then you can leave it out, but it does act as a preservative so your cordial won’t last as long without it.
I often see citric acid for sale in old school grocers or Asian food shops. It’s also pretty easy to get online at places like eBay, but make sure you’re buying food grade if you’re getting it online!
ways to use elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial isn’t just for drinking! These refreshing ideas are some example of other ways to use up this delicious summer nectar:
- drizzle some cordial over ice cream
- add a little cordial to some champagne for a light, summery cocktail
- add a splash of cordial to a vinaigrette for a sweet and floral salad dressing
- use some cordial as a base for sorbet
- soak a delicious polenta cake with it…
the possibilities are endless! Let me know if you have any other ways of using this cordial.
Don’t worry if you’ve missed the elderflowers this year – the berries will ripen in autumn. They’re packed with vitamin C and make a delicious syrup which helps to keep the sniffles at bay!
- 20-25 fresh elderflower heads
- 1.8 kilos sugar
- 1.5 litres boiled water
- 4-5 unwaxed lemons
- 50 grams citric acid
- Shake the elderflowers gently to knock off any insects. Washing them removes the pollen, which is where the flavour is.
- Add the sugar and citric acid to a large stock pot. Add the hot water and heat gently, stirring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Zest the lemons (or use a vegetable peeler to take off strips of peel). Slice up the lemons into rounds. Add the zest or peel, lemon slices and flowers to the sugar syrup. Make sure the flowers are submerged, cover and leave to steep for 24 - 48 hours.
- Strain through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve, and pour into sterilised bottles. Dilute to taste with chilled still or sparkling water, and serve over lots of ice.